Food for Thought

The appearance of the unproblematical is an art form. I refer to the seamless working of the restaurant here at the NSU summer session.

A great team rising to the challenge of being one member down, six rather than seven in all, taking full responsibility for everything – deliveries, checking supplies, prep and cooking, cleaning and so on. So steady is the guiding hand of the head chef Anna Greta Grund, that when the electricity failed, food was still provided on time and in perfect condition. That is the result of planning a preparation. The only bad outcome of a total loss of electricity was dishes piling up that had to be cleaned ready for the next mealtime. So the team, sous chefs Ulla and Tessan, with breakfast hostesses Malin and Sara, helped Casper get through the crisis.

The hours are long, 5.3 to 21.30, and the temperature in the kitchen can become almost unbearable this summer, yet professionalism manifests itself as an overall friendly benevolence towards the 180 souls attending the conference. The only real concern Malin said, is not the need for special menus but… we are on an island. We can’t just pop to a shop for ingredients. The need for vegetarian and vegan is for 33% of attendees, in fact Malin mused, it could be easier if it was 100%!

So, transferable skills for academics. Teamwork. Mutual support. Planning. Preparation. Anticipate the unexpected, and keep smiling – especially since BBQ’s are right out right now because of the risk of burning everyone and everything to a crisp.

Bill Thompson

Photo by Nathalie Fari/ (from left to right): Jens Werkander, Malin Grund, Ulla Sääf, Anna-Greta Grund.

Half empty – half full

It was hot. The assembly room was half full. There were two rows of circles of chairs like me. I was waiting for one of the delegates to sit on me and was ready for enduring an increase of temperature. Someone had left the agenda on me before the start. Twenty points to discuss. You could feel the heat raising further in the room.

“Do you all have energy for this?” someone said. When we got to point number 15 of the agenda, the one everyone had been waiting for, I could already start to feel the tension rise. The delegate chair, the auditor, the report results. Everything had been accepted except a contract in Swedish, which had to be summarised. The procession of circle presentations started. I heard whispers: “This is an old circle. They are presenting a new proposal”.

Most of the presentations happened on stage but the time came for a couple of Skype calls. One of them without a video. The other with two faces speaking on screen. As the session progressed I could feel the eagerness to ask more and more complicated questions but could almost taste the sweat falling down the ‘pitchers’ as the questions became more and more difficult.

I overheard that this NSU General Assembly had been more competitive than any other one before. This year there are seven proposals for only three places, so inevitably less than half of them will get in. The session came to an end and I felt lonely again. I hope the room temperature is lower next Friday for the voting and that I get to serve as a seat for someone.

The ‘empathy’ assembly seat

Photo by Nathalie Fari

Follow the white paper

A group of people silently left the conference-hall and went out to the sunny street following the woman who was tearing the sheets from the book and placing them as the traces behind herself. The followers started to catch the sheets, which were tempting to fly away. Fortunately, there are enough of stones on the Fårö and they immediately were used to keep the sheets down to the ground, so they made a trail, trail of text mapped on the surface of the camp.

Some spectators made small installations from the found sheets, other were writing some comments on them. From time to time one could notice some highlighted text on the next sheet, which made one to bend to the paper and to read it bowing. After a while (somewhere on the page number 100) the group was already randomly spread along the whole trail exploring the relation between the words, sheets, shadows, stones and the dry grass.

There was a camera circulating between spectators, so each of them turned for some time into the cameraman documenting this site-specific semiotic work, presented by Alexandra Litaker, the participant of the Circle 7.

Photo & Report by Anna Semenova-Ganz


So far, so Fårö

Anyone who has traveled to a new place knows the stresses of the unknown and unexpected. When it came to arriving to Fårö, Sweden for the start of our Summer School, we all had a bit of a different experience. Some of us found ourselves in a strange place without a clue where to go before we got there^ so it was with three participants from Estonia traveling to the study circle on migration.

The first came by bus. While she knew the bus was organized to pick up her and around 30 other participants, she did not escape three hours of waiting in anticipation at the airport and wondering if it was possible that she alone would miss the bus and be stranded. The second discovered five hours before arriving to the airport that there were no more spaces on the bus and considered how she could hitchhike, bike, or walk 65k at night. The third had safely secured a space on the bus, but his flight was delayed and he arrived a day later. As they waited and wondered how they would get where they were going, some of nervousness was relieved with the hope and trust that it was all worth it.

In the end, the first did arrive on a bus with fellow travelers (and a few empty seats). The second found similarly ‘lost’ peers and realized that she was not lost or alone. The third, although he missed his bus, had the benefit of learning from the experiences of the first two and had proof that the journey was possible and the destination real.

Life’s About the Journey not the Destination (But sometimes it’s great to get there…)

Their travel stories are unique, but people travel everyday; these trips are not just ‘journeys’ but experiences that have an influence on those traveling, following, or waiting alike. In the end these experiences may not be visible, but it is interesting to consider how they shape our impression of our new destination. So, fellow NSU participants, how did you get here and where are you going? As you consider your story, just imagine the endless possibilities of stories occurring at the same time.

Heidi Erbsen

Photo by Eduardo Abrantes

Putting scholarship to work at NSU

Academics and scholars from many countries met on Fårö for the 69th summer session. The notion of crossing boundaries, sharing interdisciplinary interests, gives rise to more questions than answers in terms of what is the right thing to do, when you are an academic on Fårö.

For example, those desperate for a swim were faced with a warning about blooming algae. It can kill. But, of course, how and to what extent is death inevitable? Apparently, the threat is serious and real, but what is reality? More questions were soon raised. Does death actually mean loss of life? What is swimming? At what point does wading become actual swimming? If the blooms do not go in the actual mouth or nose then is being in the water ok? And what, exactly, is meant by in? Hours later folk were wandering around asking if it was ok to swim, now that the warning may have worn off?

Those who had not ordered vegan food found the appearance of it alluring and impossible to resist. In spite of warnings as to portion control and the careful plans of the kitchen, was it still ok to try just a little to see what it tastes like. Surreptitious nibbles and samples are only to be expected when there are rules.

Those arriving exhausted and looking for a shower were advised of a serious water shortage. Please water and then turn off the shower to soap, then rinse. The length of showering was not specified and questions were asked as to relative size of bodies and egalitarian issues concerning water allocation measure according to some scale of best practice. Scientists amongst the assembled group were blamed for these kinds of positivist approaches to the issue. Students in the arts and humanities had already given up on the shower and gone to the bar.

Bill Thompson

Photo by Eduardo Abrantes

Let me tell you… About political activism over time.


On Monday, the first day NSU summer session, Molly Andrew, a professor of Political Psychology and Co-ordinator of the Center for Narrative Research at the University of East London, took us to the history with her fascinating presentation titled: Activist Lives Over Time. Her presentation brings the audience in the time of the East German ‘bloodless revolution’ of 1989 by discussing the struggle of political activists´ and their engagement in the battle for a new Germany.

Molly draws the experiences of those activists´ after the fall of Berlin Wall. 20 years later from this historical event, she meets and interviews them once again. Looking back at the history most of the interviewees conclude that what they did in the past was something unforgettable. The fall of the Berlin Wall was a moment of, as they put it “full of joy.” Their political activism, even after 20 years later, is seen as a positive event in their life, which they never regret. Nostalgia as such is not so much a longing for why things were or the willingness not to be who they were at certain time of history, rather to be their potential future themselves. In other words, nostalgia is a way to understand their future by looking at their history.

For many of the audience, Molly´s presentation was moving and deeply touching. They are looking forward to hearing her next presentation and so do I.


In 1989 a group of GDR activists turned to be in the center of the historical events, which were triggered by their protest movement. Some of them were ready to that, others had no idea what they should do after the fall of the Berlin wall. Molly Andrew interviewed some them in 1992 and 20 years later she offered them to reflect of their words in order to explore whether the activism can be sustained. Most of the respondents were recognizing their positions and opinions and shared the values of young themselves, although, they all mentioned, that they turned to be same but different after the years of experience. How does it feel to listen to own interview about your key values which were given 20 years ago? What if everyone had a recording from 20 years ago, how would they reflect on that?

Andrew created unique material for research, which can be still analyzed many times in future. She mentioned that narration mediates between real, not-real and not-yet-real. Truth changes over the time shaping itself to our vision of possible life. I think that in order to experience this effect all of us have to make a large interview about our own values right today and revise it 20 years later, because if we don’t make them now, 20 years will pass anyway.

Lucas Cardiell and Anna Semenova-Ganz

Photo by Sara Ibáñez O’ Donell

Pre-arrangements on the island

From 15th to 18th of June the Arrkom Team spend an adventurous time at Fårö Island to pre-arrange the Summer Session and to get to know better the place and all its interesting spots!

Photo Credit: Eduardo Abrantes

Transportation Issues

Dear Participants,

we would like to inform you that you don’t need to worry about the  transportation between Visby and Farö Kursgard. We will be organising a shuttle bus on Sunday the 29th of July that will take people to the location. Just try to arrive in Visby between 8:00 am and 10:00 pm.

Visit to Fårö

From April 10th to 12th, the arrkom members Annikki and Moa are going to travel to Fårö to check out all the practicalities of the summer session camp and to make contact with local artists and institutions that might be interested in collaborating with NSU.